A step too far

I haven’t commented on US drone strikes in Afghanistan and other countries. Frankly, I don’t have much of an opinion on the tactic. The purpose of a military is to kill the enemies of a nation, and death is a messy business. Civilian casualties happen. They’re regrettable and often counter-productive. But history doesn’t provide many examples of successful countries that had many qualms concerning the destruction of their enemies. If I were a general and if I had access to classified military information, I could make an informed decision about whether or not the collateral damage were worth the benefit of dead terrorists. But I’m not a general and I don’t have access to this information.

9/11 happened. Nearly 5,000 Americans died. Osama bin Ladin claimed credit for it, and he was found hiding in Pakistan, where he was killed. US intelligence says there’s more terrorists in Pakistan, and that is prima facie evidence that legitimizes drone strikes in the region. Don’t mistake me for some bleeding heart pacifist.

But this is a step too far, and I cannot condone it. News organs are reporting that the United States has adopted the “double tap” maneuver, launching a second missile with a delay after the first in order to kill rescuers and responders to the initial assault:

That tactic is known as the “double tap,” which bombs multiple targets in relatively quick succession — meaning that the second strike often hits first responders.

Fighting terrorists is valuable, but lets be clear that the United States has the military upper hand in the conflict. There is no need for the United States to terrorize civilian populations. The side with the upper hand can and should afford to be gracious, a little noblesse oblige  would be appropriate.

I’m listening to a podcast series on the Mongol empire under Genghis Khan, and this is a tactic straight out of their playbook. The great Khan once ordered a general to wipe out a city, and so he did, ordering his army to cut down each man, woman, and child. But to be thorough, the general returned a day later and killed everyone that had returned from hiding to pick over the scraps and to mourn the dead.

Such vicious actions fit with the Khan’s plan of global conquest, adopting the most brutal tactics possible to scare great walled cities into submission rather than fighting. But it is harder to see how the actions of the US government fit into its duty to protect its citizens and territory from attack.

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